Teen Counseling Guide

Teen Counseling – Adolescent Counseling – Teen Therapy – Adolescent Therapy 

Adolescence is one of the most important stages of human development. There are so many changes that occur for young people including physical, psychological, relational and sense of identity as they journey to adulthood. Teen Counseling can support teenagers and families to integrate approaches that will encourage their psycho-social development. Although adolescents have been stereotyped as being a difficult time at LiveBeyond Counseling and Coaching located in the Fort Worth, Alliance, Southlake, Keller, Texas areas we also believe it can also be a great time for or a difficult time it can also be a time of positive growth and connection. 

Adolescence is a critical period for developing and maintaining social and emotional habits that will support their mental and physical well-being. This includes adopting healthy:

  • Sleep Habits
  • Regular Exercise
  • Developing Coping Skills
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Interpersonal Skills
  • Healthy Identity Formation
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Learning and Managing Emotions

Teen Counseling can offer teenagers a safe space where they can learn the tools and skills to support their mental health development.

It is important to remain aware of the signs your youth may be struggling with their mental health and to seek appropriate support when they are. It is estimated the globally 10-20% of adolescents experience mental health conditions, yet they remain undiagnosed and undertreated.

Most mental health issues in adulthood begin in the early years. If the signs can be spotted early, they can be treated so they do not carry onto adulthood.

Does My Teenager Need Counseling? 

Some teenagers may struggle more than others throughout their adolescents. As a parent, it can be difficult to witness but it is important to know when they may need professional support. If your teenager is struggling it is important to understand that there are many factors that could be impacting their mental health that are beyond your ability or control.

Some parents fail to recognize the signs their teenagers are suffering due to feeling shame, guilt, or blame. Remember though that if your child broke their leg, you would not feel bad because you could not fix it, mental health is similar although less understood in this way. When your youth is struggling it is important to not take it personally but instead to seek support, you would if they broke their leg, if their mind is struggling it is important to get them proper help too.

Many youths will exhibit different moods, behaviors and thoughts at different times which can be part of normal childhood development. These different characteristics and behaviors may be signs of mental health concerns or disorders if they are intense and persist over a long period of time and are interfering with their daily life.

There are a number of common mental health conditions that youth may face. Knowing these conditions and the signs and symptoms may help you understand if your youth needs professional help or not. When you are able to catch these signs of mental health struggles early there are effective treatments and models that can help your adolescent develop healthier coping skills and avoid taking this into adulthood.

Common Mental Health Challenges In Adolescence 

Anxiety 

This is the most common mental health challenge youth struggle with. As youth face a number of changes and challenges, they can struggle to cope with and process the anxiety and stress that comes with this transitional stage of development. Although youth may present with these different forms of anxiety with effective treatment, they can learn tools and skills that can help them better cope with and overcome their anxiety.

Generalized Anxiety: Signs of this disorder include excessive anxiety and worry about a number of activities or events in their life. The duration, intensity or frequency of the worry and anxiety is out of proportion to the actual likelihood or effect of the upcoming event. The anxiety and worry is difficult to control and often these thoughts can impact their ability to focus and connect with others. This type of anxiety is often connected to somatic symptoms such as stomach aches, headaches, show breathing, racing heart, etc.

Social Anxiety

Although it is normal to have a bit of fear around social events and public speaking for some youth it can become more extreme and have a negative impact on their daily life. Social anxiety disorder is when excessive fear of social or performance situations. This fear is often driven by fear of being embarrassed or being humiliated or judged by others. Youth may feel they are always “on stage” which makes them very self-conscious. This fear and worry becomes a problem when it impacts their school performance, confidence level and self-esteem and negatively impacts their friendships and social connections. 

Panic Attacks

A panic attack is a sudden attack of anxiety that comes with intense feelings of dread and physical symptoms that can feel like a heart attack or they are going to die or lose control. There are often physical symptoms of: 

  • Racing heart
  • Chest pain, 
  • Trouble breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

There is also an intense desire to escape the situations. The fear of having another panic attack can trigger another one. Youth who have often panic attacks may try to avoid places they have already had an attack. Panic attacks in youth can be connected to medical conditions or another disorder such as Post-traumatic Stress Disorder o(PTSD) or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder.

Trauma

Experiencing a traumatic event can impacts on sense of safety, sense of self and the ability to regulate emotions and navigate relationships. Trauma in general is used to describe the challenging emotional consequences that can result from living through a distressing event. Traumatic events can be difficult to define because the same event may be traumatic for some and not for others, there are also different degrees or levels to trauma, but they can all have a devastating effect on someone’s development. It is estimated that two-thirds of children report at least 1 traumatic event by the age of 16.

Common potentially traumatic events include:

  • Psychological, physical, or sexual abuse
  • Community or school violence
  • Witnessing or experiencing domestic violence
  • Sudden or violent loss of a loved one
  • National disasters or terrorism
  • Refugee or war experiences
  • Military family related stressors
  • Physical or sexual assault
  • Neglect
  • Serious accident or illness

As a parent, it can be hard to know if your child has experienced trauma as it can be occurring outside of the home at school or at a friend’s house. It is important to be aware of the signs of trauma which overlap a lot with other mental health disorders and put them at greater risk of developing other mental health disorders.

Here are some common signs youth may be struggling with trauma although different adolescents may respond differently to trauma. It is important to listen to and check in with your youth when you feel they might be struggling.

  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Becoming anxious or fearful
  • Intrusive and upsetting thoughts
  • Hard time sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Eating poorly or losing or gaining weight
  • Feeling depressed or alone
  • Withdrawing from family and social circle
  • Developing eating disorders or self-harm behaviours
  • Becoming involved in risky sexual behaviour
  • Abusing alcohol or drugs

Depression

As youth face challenges related to peer pressure, academic expectations and changing bodies it can bring a lot of ups and downs. For some teens through the down are more than just temporary they may experience symptoms of depression. Common signs your teenager may be struggling with depression include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness which can include crying spells
  • Feeling hopeless or empty
  • Irritability or annoyed mood
  • Feeling frustrated or angry even at small matters
  • Loss of interest or enjoyment in usual activities
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tired and lose of energy
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Less attention to personal appearance and hygiene
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Increased self-blame or self-criticism
  • Fixation on past failures
  • Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure
  • Trouble thinking, remembering, and concentrating or making decisions.
  • Poor school performance
  • Self-harm- hutting, burning,
  • Frequent thoughts about death, dying or suicide

If left untreated adolescent depression can be very dangerous if left untreated. Although youth may have ups and down, symptoms of depression are often more intense and overwhelming for the youth. If you feel your child is at risk of suicide it is important to seek immediate medical support by calling 911 or your local suicide hotline.

Attention-Deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD): This is a type of neurodevelopmental disorder that can impact your child’s personal, social, academic and or occupational functioning. It often impacts one attention, memory, perceptions, problems solving, language or social interactions. Youth with ADHD may have trouble focusing and paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviours or be overly active. They also may be prone to more daydreaming, forgetting things, losing things, talking too much, fidgeting, making mistakes or taking unnecessary risks. ADHD can be treated through routine and healthy lifestyle habits.

Conduct Disorder

Conduct disorder is a serious behavioural and emotional disorder that can occur in children and teens. It includes a pattern of disruptive and violent behaviours and problems following the rules. It involves disruptive behaviours that are long-lasting and violates the rights of others and goes against the norm of behaviour and has a negative impact on the youths and families everyday life. Youth with conduct disorder often have low self-esteem and tend to throw frequent temper tantrums. They are often not able to see how their behaviour impacts others and have little guilt or remorse for hurting others. Substance abuse may sometimes be involved also.

Eating Disorders

Unfortunately, eating disorders for youth are not uncommon. Many youths become obsessed with their weight and body images and ways they can control it, this is especially true for girls. Teenage boys may also struggle with their body image but they often use dieting or compulsive exercise to control it.

Here are some signs your child may be struggling with an eating disorder:

Eating in secret

Calorie counting

Skipping meals

Preoccupation with food

Feeling out of control

Overeating when distressed

Frequent use of laxatives or diuretics

Excessive Exercising

Constipation

Purging or vomiting after eating

Frequent weight change

Dental cavities or erosion of tooth enamel

Distorted body image

Binge eating

Purging

Food phobias or avoidance

Connecting self-worth to body image

Eating Disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorders which are also psychological disorders and impact one eating habits, behaviours and physical and mental health.

Psychosis

Psychosis is when one loses some contact with reality. It is important to notice when your youth may be experiences signs of psychosis with other behavioural changes such as a change in routine, mood, and hygiene. They may become extremely anxious suspicious or disoriented. They may withdrawal physically and become very sensitive to sounds, smells, light, colour or textures. They may also experience hallucinations (hearing, seeing, smelling things that are not there), delusions ( paranoia or feeling of grandeur), and increased confusion, extreme mood swings, and other behavioural changes such as sudden bouts of anger or sadness or inappropriate laughter. 

It is important to catch the signs of psychosis early so it can be treated immediately. Psychosis can be very challenging for youth people as it can impact their confidence, self-esteem, relationships and outlook on life.

Self-Harm

Self-harm can happen at any age but it is more common among youth than any other age group. Self-harm or self-injury is when a person hurts themselves on purpose but without the desire to die by suicide. Often youth use self-harm to help them deal with intense feelings as it helps them manage the emotional pain and distress. Youth who self-harm may accidentally hurt themselves more than intended or the injury may become infected. It is important youth who use self-harm are approached without judgement and are taught healthier ways to cope and manage their emotions.

Suicide

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youth age 15-24. Many children and adolescence who attempt suicide often have significant mental health disorders, often depression. They are often impulsive and may be struggling with feelings of sadness, anger, confusion and problems with attention and hyperactivity.

Feelings of self-doubt, stress, pressure to succeed, finical uncertainly, loss, disappointment can get too intense for some youth and lead to thoughts or attempted suicide. Some teens may think suicide is the only solution to their problems. Depression and suicidal feelings are treatable mental health disorders. If you recognize your youth having these risk factors or indicating suicidal thoughts it is important to get them help immediately.

Suicide and suicide attempts are connected to depression but there are other risk factors:

  • Family history of suicide attempts
  • Impulsivity
  • Aggressive or disruptive behaviours
  • Access to firearms
  • Bullying
  • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
  • Acute loss or rejection

Children and adolescence may openly talk about suicide or make comments such as “I wish I was dead” or “I won’t be a problem for you very much longer”. Other warning signs for suicide can include:

  • Frequent or pervasive sadness
  • Withdrawal from friends or family and regular activities
  • Decline in quality at school
  • Preoccupation with death and dying
  • Stop talking about their future or making plans

Many individuals do not feel comfortable talking about suicide or death. However, it can be very important if you feel like your child is depressed to ask them if they are thinking about hurting themselves or suicide. 

Asking questions about this does not give them the idea to do it but rather shows them you care and are open to having a hard conversation with them. It will open the door to them talking about how they are feeling. Some sample questions include:

  • Are you feeling sad or depressed?
  • Are you thinking about hurting yourself or killing yourself?
  • Have you ever thought about hurting or killing yourself?

If they are or have thought about suicide it is good to book them a session with a counsellor. If you feel like they are at imminent risk of hurting themselves it is important to take them to the hospital where they can be connected with appropriate supports.

Youth At Increased Risk of Mental Health Challenges 

Just as mental health can affect adults, mental illness can impact adolescents from all types of families and cultural backgrounds. Youth in certain situations though can be at a higher risk of struggling with their mental health as they may also face different barriers to seeking support. Some of these situations include:

  • Youth with a family history of mental illness
  • Aboriginal youth
  • New immigrant children and refugees
  • Youth who have been through major life changes such as moving to a new city or new school
  • Youth who have experienced their parents’ divorce or lost a parent due to death or abandonment
  • Young people who have experienced or witness trauma, including abuse
  • Gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender youth
  • Youth who struggle with substance abuse and other behavioural addiction

Youth Counseling Treatment Methods

There are many different therapeutic interventions a counselor may use with a youth who is struggling with their mental health. Therapeutic conversations between a counselor, youth and family can help in understanding and resolving problems. This can be done in a number of different approaches, techniques and interventions. Counselors work to meets their clients where they are and may use a combination of approaches tailed to meet the needs of the adolescent and the family. A key part of effective therapy is the therapeutic relationship where the youth feel safe, seen and understood. This creates an environment for positive change and growth. 

Psychotherapy and Counseling for Adolescence

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): helps adolescents understand the connection between their thoughts, feelings and behaviors that might be contributing to their anxiety and depression. This form of therapy helps youth become more aware of their thoughts, actions and feeling so they can view difficult situations more clearly and respond effectively. It teaches them helpful behaviours so they no longer feel like they need to avoid their fear but can face it and become more active and relaxed in life.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT): helps youth understand and accept their inner emotions rather than fighting them or feeling guilty about them. It helps youth develop a deeper understanding of their emotional struggles and gives them tools and skills to help them not just cope but healthily process them.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT): This form of therapy is effective for youth who are struggling with intense emotions, disruptive behaviours, and challenging relationships. It helps teach them a number of skills including:

  1. Understanding, managing, and regulating emotions
  2. Tolerating distress and crisis in a healthy way
  3. Maintaining satisfying relationships with others
  4. Increases self-awareness
  5. Increasing problems solving skills

Supportive Therapy: This includes offering youth a safe space to talk about their stressors. It helps youth identity helpful and unhealthful behavioural and helps to replace them with better tools and skills. It helps youth develop confidence and self-esteem.

Sometimes youth will benefit from individual, group or family therapy. At times it will take a combination of psychotherapy approaches and formats to best support the youth and their family. Over time youth can learn new skills and tools that will help reduce symptoms, provide insight and improve their functioning and quality of life.

Benefits of Teen Counseling 

There are many benefits youth can receive from counselling. It is also important to remember that your child does not have to be suffering a major mental illness to benefit from counselling. Counselling can be a way to learn optimal about optimal functioning to help increase one’s well-being and ability to cope with life challenges with more ease.

Benefits of Counseling for Adolescence

  1. Healthy Toolbox: They will learn a number of skills and tools that will help them cope with life situations and problems
  2. Increase Well-Being: They will learn how to develop their well-being and happiness early on in life
  3. Positive Mindset: They will develop the ability to relate to themselves and the world in a positive and constructive way. This involves developing more optimism and a growth mindset.
  4. Smooth Transition: Youth who go to counselling may be more prepared to enter adulthood. They may feel more empowered with navigational transitions and developing their sense of identity including goals and life direction.
  5. Healthy Independence: Counselling is a way that teens can experience taking ownership of their experiences, feelings, and mental health and well-being. It helps them develop more healthy independence while also feeling there is support for them if they need it.
  6. Benefits Mental Health: Adolescence is a time of a change and seeing a counsellor can help them navigate this transitional life period. It can help them learn different skills and mindsets that will help them maintain their mental health as they transition into adulthood.
  7. Self-Care: Youth learn how to take care of their mental, emotional and physical needs so they can maintain their mental health and well-being. This includes learning and developing healthy habits and creating healthy routines and life skills.
  8. Increased Confidence: Counselling can help youth feel more confident in their skills, abilities and sense of self. It offers them a space where they can become more aware of their self-development. 
  9. Increased Self-Worth/self-esteem: Counsellor teaches youth how to build their self-worth and self-esteem by cultivating more self-compassion and understanding. It helps them how to navigate feelings of possible shame and guilt in a way they do not feel overwhelmed by these emotions. 
  10. Healthy Relationships: Adolescents can learn about healthy relationships including communication styles and tools, healthy boundaries, and learning how to communicate and get their emotional needs met. This helps them with cultivating healthy friendships, relationships with their family and later romantic relationships.

If you feel like your child is struggling with their mental health and well-being, please feel free to reach out and find out more about how LiveBeyond Counseling & Coaching can help with teen counseling services. You can find LiveBeyond Counselling & Coaching offices Fort Worth, Alliance, Southlake, Keller, Texas areas.

If you are in need of teen counseling and are in the Fort Worth, Keller, Southlake, Alliance, Texas areas, reach out today.

https://www.acog.org/clinical/clinical-guidance/committee-opinion/articles/2017/07/mental-health-disorders-in-adolescents